Koch Bros. Astroturf group fights Tea Party support for solar power in Georgia

by David Pomerantz

July 10, 2013

Koch and front groups

Koch Bros. front group Americans for Prosperity is fighting tea party activists who support solar power in Georgia.

It turns out that Greenpeace has at least two things well, probably only two things in common with a group of Tea Party activists in Georgia:

1. We want more solar power.

2. The Koch Brothers hate us.

The Tea Party activists, the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, have been asking Georgias regulators to approve a plan that would require the utility in Georgia, Southern Co. to provide more solar energy. Why would Tea Party activists want more solar power, you ask? Well, for many of the same reasons that most people do: They want more energy choices and recognize that solar energy is increasingly becoming cheaper than coal and gas. They even say theyre sick and tired of paying subsidies to nuclear energy to build troubled reactors in the state.

That shouldnt make your head explode. Theres no reason that small-government conservatives wouldnt want to pay less for cleaner electricity. The fact that switching from coal and gas to solar energy also combats global warming is a pretty sweet part of the deal too as far as Greenpeace is concerned, but we can arrive at the same answer for different reasons.

Conservative support for solar energy is only surprising because conservative voices have been so effectively co-opted in recent years by the coal, oil and gas industries, which have fought solar power at every possible turn for obvious reasons.

And thats where the story gets really good: the Georgia chapter of Americans For Prosperity, a front group of the billionaire polluter Koch Brothers, is fighting the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots and trying to shut down the solar proposal by scaring people into thinking that solar power is more expensive than it is.

In a nice bit of investigative reporting, the Associated Press discredited AFPs claims as misleading, noting that Southern Co. expects to pay the same or less for solar power than it would pay to get [energy] elsewhere.

In fact, solar power is thriving in many parts of the U.S. because, in addition to being clean, its costs are plummeting, and Georgia is no exception: A school in the conservative town of rural Dublin, GA, for instance, is adding solar panels because it will be cheaper in the long run, allowing the school to avoid firing teachers.

For the utilities that burn mostly coal and gas, like Southern Company and Duke Energy, this solar revolution poses a serious threat. Those companies can read the writing on the wall and know full well that solar energy could totally upend their business models. Thats why Duke Energy, the largest utility in the country and the monopoly electric company in North Carolina, has blocked solar energy there despite a growing chorus of ratepayer voices who want cleaner, cheaper options, and Southern Company has done the same in Georgia.

For fossil fuel barons like the Koch Brothers, the solar revolution is a threat to the business model that has made them obscenely rich.

Thats why they try these political scare tactics via front groups like Americans For Prosperity in Georgia. Thankfully, their charade wont work. Citizens around the country of all political stripes, from Tea Partiers in Georgia to low-income and senior groups in North Carolina, all recognize that solar energy is increasingly the answer to cheaper, cleaner energy.

The jig is up for the Kochs and Americans for Prosperity this latest escapade has unraveled their cloak of caring about economic freedom. Economic freedom means the ability to choose solar energy if its cheapest. Thats what some genuine Tea Partiers in Georgia seem to want.

The facts that the Kochs are fighting grassroots Tea Partiers is proof that the only freedom that interests them is the freedom to profit from their own pollution.

David Pomerantz

By David Pomerantz

David Pomerantz is a former Senior Climate and Energy Campaigner for Greenpeace USA, based in San Francisco. He helps lead Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100% renewable energy.

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